Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

Across the Bay

Book review by
Monica Encarnacion, Common Sense Media
Across the Bay Book Poster Image
Emotional but unlikely journey of boy in Old San Juan.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Misses opportunity to teach kids that every action has a consequence -- Carlitos sneaks out of his home but doesn't get in trouble. Limited Spanish, more could have added extra value.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about family and the true meaning of home -- families can be different, home is where you are loved, families count on each other -- but misses the mark when Carlitos goes off on his own and doesn't tell his mom or Abuela.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Beautiful representations of culture and people of Puerto Rico -- minimal Spanish. Carlitos rash act is not one to follow.

Violence & Scariness

 

Language

 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Across the Bay is a story based on author-illustrator Carlos Aponte's childhood in Puerto Rico. This colorful picture book transports readers into the heart of Puerto Rico as young Carlitos goes off on a voyage to find the father he yearns to meet. Even though Carlitos is happy with his family, a desire for more pushes him to sneak out of his home and take a ferry to San Juan all by himself to find his father. Vibrant illustrations in a tropical palette draws readers in as Carlitos makes his way across the bay and then wanders through the streets of Old San Juan searching high and low for Papi. Eventually, Carlitos realizes that he already has everything he needs with his mother and his abuela, and he returns home without finding his father. It's a joyous but unresolved ending. Parents might be concerned that the story presents no consequences or reprimand from Carlitos' family for his rash and potentially dangerous decision to sneak out of his home and travel to the capital city alone.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

ACROSS THE BAY is a heartwarming story of a young boy's search for family and identity. The main character, a young boy named Carlitos, lives in the small town of Cataño, Puerto Rico -- across the bay from the capital, in a happy home with his mother, his abuela, and their cat, Coco. Carlitos loves his family but notices that something sets him and his family apart. Other neighborhood kids play basketball, learn to ride a bike, and go to the barbershop with their fathers while he goes to the barbershop with his mother. When Carlitos asks about Papi, his mother tells him that his father is across the bay in Old San Juan. She explains that "sometimes things don't work out" and reassures him that he is loved. Still, his yearning for his father takes him on a solo journey to find him. He tucks a photo of his father into his pocket and leaves home without anyone noticing, boarding a ferry all by himself to Old San Juan. Almost immediately Carlitos can sense the vastness of the city as he watches Old San Juan grow bigger and bigger from his seat on the ferry. Once across the bay he enlists the help of strangers but is unsuccessful in his quest to find Papi. His journey takes him through the maze-like streets of the old city, to old viejitos playing dominos on the street, to a lively parade, and finally to the castle El Morro, where he learns an important lesson. The colorful characters he meets along the way help illustrate a cultural setting and become part of the boy's emotional journey to find the true meaning of home. Eventually he makes his way to the edge of Old San Juan, where from across the bay he catches a glimpse of his hometown and is quickly reminded of where he belongs.

Is it any good?

This is an enchanting picture book set in Old San Juan. Carlos Aponte's vibrant illustrations bring the color and personality of Puerto Rico to life but may leave you longing to hear more Spanish. The occasional "buenos dias" and a short verse from a popular Puerto Rican song are about all that's included. Still, Across the Bay beautifully captures some of the unique culture and colorfulness of the ancient city of Old San Juan. Each page also displays a varied spectrum of brown skin shades that may prompt young readers to appreciate differences and find beauty within their own uniqueness. It's a story that can also speak to kids whose families don't look like everyone else's.

Carlitos' decision to take off on his own may be concerning but could also present a great opportunity to talk with kids about possible dangers, including reasons why they shouldn't talk to strangers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how families look different in Across the Bay. What makes a family?

  • What do you know about Puerto Rico? What places in Old San Juan would you like to visit?

  • Have you ever taken a big trip without telling/asking a grown-up? Do you think Carlitos should have told his mom or Abuela that he was going to Old San Juan? Why?

  •  

  •  

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love Latinx stories and bilingual books

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate